People meeting me for the first time have no idea of the checkered past buried beneath this harmless, dotty exterior. And, no one EVER suspects that I am a confirmed kidnapper.
It happened innocently enough.
Close friends convinced me that goats were a wonderful project for children. (They were sowing the seeds of their genius, and somewhat diabolical, plan to shift their goat herd to our farm when their daughters graduated and left home.)
In the beginning, I had a kid (a human one) in elementary school who wanted to show goats in 4H. We had TWO goats back then (the thought makes me giggle uncontrollably now – Goats are like potato chips; you can’t have just one. And whoever stops at one or TWO? Or three…or four…?)
Our friends’ daughters had a herd which they loved, cared for, bred and showed. One morning, as my friends and their girls were leaving for work and school, one of their does went into labor. My friend called and if I could go check on her. Aside from being a rock star at Lamaze breathing and having opposable thumbs which allowed me to call a vet, my goat birthing skills were not what anyone would have called stellar. I am NOT the person you call in an emergency where there is blood or leaking bodily fluids. I am (still) a firm believer that anything that typically resides inside of the body, has no business being on the outside.
Luckily, by the time I arrived at their barn, the doe had already given birth. I gave the mama some molasses water and checked to make sure she was fine, then turned my attention to the new baby. Nestled in the straw was the most adorable baby goat I had ever seen. I. Was. Smitten. In love. She had a pink nose, a pie bald face, and a white belt across her middle.
I did what any person who had little or no goat knowledge would do in my situation. I carried her to my car, brought her to my house, put her in a basket in the kitchen and began bottle feeding her. (All of those James Herriot stories I had read were coming ro life.) Then I called my friend. I told her dam and doeling were fine but the baby mysteriously went missing. My very first KID-NAPPING (What else would you call the theft of a goat kid?)
My friends smiled to themselves. Their plan was working. The children were hooked, now it was time to reel in the Mom.
My children thought I had completely lost my mind.
HUMAN KIDS: Why do we have LIVESTOCK in the HOUSE?
ME: It’s just like in “All Creatures Great and Small” Besides she’s just a baby. It’s cold out.
HUMAN KIDS: She a GOAT. She should be out in the barn. With her mother!
ME: (smiling a bit maniacally) I ‘M her mother now.
We named her Ivy, and eventually she did go out to live in the barn. She taught me many, many things about goat “parenting”. If you have more than one child, you make mistakes on the first one that are not repeated on subsequent offspring. If you have an only child, you’ll just have to trust me on this.
Mistake number one and it was a BIG one; one I paid for for years. No matter how adorable baby goats are, do NOT feed and cuddle them in your lap. Alpines are large goats when fully grown. Feeding a baby goat in your lap is like letting your St. Bernard puppy sleep in your twin bed.
Fast forward eight years during a vet visit for rabies shots. As the vet and vet tech approached the stall, there was Ivy, all 135 pounds of her contentedly sitting in my lap. And at 5’ 2” I do not have a lot of lap real estate available for a fully grown goat to lounge on.
The vet looked at me as he was getting out the needles: “Bottle fed doe?”
ME: (very quietly) Yes, how could you tell?
The vet and vet tech gave each other knowing looks.
ME: It was only the ONE goat! How long do you think she’ll keep doing this?
To their credit, they did not laugh (at least not while they were still in the barn)
One of my friends’ girls, now grown and a beloved friend and mentor, repeatedly accused me of “shameless goat favoritism” where Ivy was concerned. It may have been slightly true. Probably was true. Okay, it WAS true.
It wasn’t that I didn’t love all of my goats (the herd now at eight because…potato chips), I just loved Ivy a bit more. I loved her for loving me. And yes, that made her a bit of a endearing, needy nudge.
So when she got old and arthritis set in, I tried everything in my power to avoid the inevitable. Massaging her legs, giving her a variety of pain meds daily so she would be comfortable, frequent vet visits to evaluate her quality of life. And when the time came to say good bye, in February, I was fortunate to have the same vet, now a friend, who had seen her jump in my lap all of those years ago.
The hands that had held her on the day she came into the world, and the hands that lovingly cared for her every day since, now held her gently as she transitioned peacefully out.
I bawled in the vet’s arms.
ME: (crying) “I suck as a farmer. REAL farmers would never have invested this kind of time, effort and expense in one goat. It’s completely irrational”
VET: “You’re a compassionate farmer. And there are more like you than you think. You gave her a long, wonderful, happy life. That’s something to be proud of”
For weeks the barn has felt empty devoid of my sweet Ivy. I miss hearing her voice. Tears I have not shed in over a month, well up as I write. But I now can look at photos of her and remember how lucky I was to have had her grace my life and love her with such intensity for so long.
And maybe, just maybe, if I visit my friend’s daughter’s farm, it may be time for another kidnapping.